Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Gay and Evangelical -- A Dilemma

With the outing of Paul Barnes, former pastor of the Denver area Grace Chapel, following so closely on the heals of Ted Haggard's fall, the question seems to be who's next? The question is: can you be evangelical and gay? The answer on the part of most evangelicals is no, but that doesn't mean there aren't significant numbers of gays who consider themselves to be evangelicals.

Well, this morning in the NY Times there is an interesting article that focuses on just this question. The article shares the dilemma that self-described gay evangelicals feel as they look for a community that will accept them as who they are and yet are sufficiently evangelical in their theology:

But even when they accept themselves, gay evangelicals often have difficulty finding a community. They are too Christian for many gay people, with the evangelical rock they listen to and their talk of loving God. Mr. Lee plans to remain sexually abstinent until he is in a long-term, religiously blessed relationship, which would make him a curiosity in straight and gay circles alike.

Gay evangelicals seldom find churches that fit. Congregations and denominations that are open to gay people are often too liberal theologically for evangelicals. Yet those congregations whose preaching is familiar do not welcome gay members, those evangelicals said.

You'll have to register to read it, but there's no cost and I think you'll find it rewarding!


Anonymous said...

The problem for 'evangelicals' is their denial that homosexuality as something that is perfectly natural rather than a 'lifestyle choice' that's 'sinful'. You don't need a 'conversation' about this, but simple acceptance for people who they are.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

I think where the conversation is needed is in dealing with all the biblical and theological input into the issue. As is true of women in ministry, it's not simply an issue of capability, it's an issue of tradition and felt experience. And churches have to work through all of this, and that takes conversation. Science by itself isn't enough. Thank you for your comments!

Kenn Chaplin said...

Hi Bob:

For a while, earlier this year, I 'hung around' two or three gay Christian web sites with very active message boards. I found the vast majority of members to be rather blindly accepting of the biblical inerrancy line they had grown up with, but had come to terms with looking at homosexuality differently, and at odds with their original faith communities, because of their life experience.

I found this narrow exception to be convenient, given all the other fundamentalist dogma they were keeping, and felt like there was little patience on their part to hear about a different way of viewing the Bible.

Meanwhile I'm still plodding through Sam Harris' "The End of Faith", fighting to keep the mythical beauty of God Incarnate in the baby Jesus story while discarding a fair bit of the bath water of the Christmas narrative.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...


Thank you for adding into the conversation. I think there's a strong desire to hold on to as much as we can with regard to our belief systems, and make exceptions where we can. On the women's issue, many evangelicals who remain opposed to welcoming gays, have made the transition on women and deal with the texts that seem to exclude them from leadership. Basically we deem them culturally conditioned. Yet, with homosexuality, we can't make that jump. But, if, like me, you're brother (or other family member)comes out you're forced to deal with the issue once again. How much do you deem as cultural? All of this makes for difficult conversations.

On Sam Harris, my I'm not sure what to do with him. I've read and commented on his Letter to a Christian Nation and I've got a piece coming out on Sunday in the Lompoc Record about it. When you're done with Harris, try Marcus Borg's "The Heart of Christianity." In fact it should be in my little Amazon bookstore in my links.